Neva Lakes, Fourth of July Trailhead, Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, Colorado

Neva Lakes - 8.0 miles

Fourth of July Trailhead

Lower Neva Lake

Lower Neva Lake

Round-Trip Length: 8.0 miles (distance and elevation gains will vary by route)
Start-End Elevation: 10,172' - 11,836' (11,868' max elevation)
Elevation Change: +1,664' net elevation gain (+2,460' total roundtrip elevation gain)
Skill Level: Moderate-Strenuous
Dogs Allowed: Yes
Bikes Allowed: No
Horses Allowed: No
Related Trails:

Neva Lakes - 8.0 Miles Round-Trip

The Neva Lakes (11,836') are located in a steep-walled cirque between Mt Neva (12,814') and Mt Jasper (12,923') in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. No trail reaches the lakes, however a fairly moderate cross-country route splits off the Arapaho Pass Trail and follows North Fork Middle Boulder Creek to its source at the lakes.

Trail Map | Photo Gallery

The most efficient route follows the Arapaho Pass Trail to the Arapaho Glacier Trail split, where you can drop (south) into the valley and intercept the creek.

It traces the creek through a stunning sequence of alpine meadows, tarns and cascades to a steep wall under the cirque, the only major obstacle between the trail and lakes.

Use best available terrain and pitch to scale the oft snow-covered wall, above which travel moderates across open tundra to the lakes.

Only experienced hikers should attempt the Neva Lakes. Though off-trail navigation along the North Fork is intuitive, proficiency with maps, compass and/or GPS is still required for safe and efficient travel.

Distances will vary by route. The route described here travels 2 miles off-trail, each way. Much of it runs at and over treeline, and travel can be slow even on gentle terrain.  

Watch weather closely and allow plenty of time for the return climb out of the valley to regain the Arapaho Pass Trail. Avoid trampling sensitive alpine vegetation and walk on rocks and snow whenever possible to minimize impact.

Note, the lakes have no widely recognized official name. They're unnamed on most maps, guides and Boulder County documents. They've been dubbed the 'Neva Lakes' here in reference to their location under Mt Neva, and for expedient recognition. Please contact [email protected] with additional information:

The Arapaho Pass Trail rises past the Indian Peaks Wilderness Boundary (.4 miles : 10,385') with a good look at Diamond Lake's outlet-waterfall across the valley. 

It narrows across the midsection of a steep cascade (1 mile : 10,650') to the Diamond Lake Trail split (1.15 miles : 10,752'). The APT switchbacks and moderates across high open slopes with views of Neva, Jasper and the general route you'll be taking.

It levels across a washed-over flat to the Arapaho Glacier Trail split (2.05 miles : 11,235') where an unmarked spur branches south and drops into patchy krummholz.

The spur weaves to a meadow and fades (2.3 miles : 11,070'), where you'll follow best-available terrain to meet the creek (2.6 miles : 11,190'). 

Navigation is quite simple from this point, though you'll still have to negotiate several marshy ponds, willow patches, outcrops and stream crossings.

There are many great places to camp in this idyllic setting, arguably one of the nicest valleys in the Indian Peaks. The Arapaho Pass Trail - etched high into the north valley wall - is almost always in sight and its location never in question.

The route rises through expansive meadows to the base of a steep wall under the cirque (3.45 miles : 11.525').

All things equal scaling the left (south) side is preferable, as it leads to level grassy tundra (3.6 miles : 11,710') across the basin from Lower Neva Lake.

Much of the lower lake is ringed by talus, and the north-side approach leads right into it. A slightly longer but more gentle approach from the south leads to Upper Neva Lake (4.0 miles : 11,836'), from which it's an easy backtrack to the lower lake.

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Interactive GPS Topo Map

Key GPS Coordinates - DATUM WGS84

  • N39 59.714 W105 38.052 — 0.0 miles : Fourth of July Trailhead
  • N40 00.036 W105 38.346 — .55 miles : Begin switchbacks
  • N40 00.197 W105 38.616 — 1.0 miles : Cross mid-section of steep falls
  • N40 00.252 W105 38.785 — 1.15 miles : Diamond Lake Trail split
  • N40 00.426 W105 39.107 — 1.5 miles : Cross high open slopes
  • N40 00.624 W105 39.511 — 2.05 miles : Arapaho Glacier Trail split
  • N40 00.575 W105 39.606 — 2.15 miles : Spur into valley fades
  • N40 00.547 W105 39.866 — 2.35 miles : Reach creek
  • N40 00.545 W105 40.063 — 2.6 miles : Negotiate terrestrial obstacles
  • N40 00.495 W105 40.252 — 2.8 miles : Off-trail travel
  • N40 00.402 W105 40.477 — 3.05 miles : Cross creek to south side
  • N40 00.338 W105 40.666 — 3.3 miles : Slip thru rock chute
  • N40 00.308 W105 40.706 — 3.35 miles : Cross creek to south side of valley
  • N40 00.248 W105 40.769 — 3.45 miles : Base of steep wall
  • N40 00.172 W105 40.814 — 3.6 miles : Open tundra over wall
  • N40 00.108 W105 40.973 — 3.8 miles : Open tundra near lower lake
  • N40 00.115 W105 41.160 — 4.0 miles : Upper Neva Lake (11,836')

Camping and Backpacking Information

  • Permits are required for backcountry camping in the Indian Peaks Wilderness, June 1 - Sept. 15. Permits are limited.
  • Permits are $5 per party. Contact the Sulphur Ranger District (970.887.4100) or Boulder Ranger District (303.541.2500) in advance to secure a permit.
  • Permits must be picked up in person at either Ranger Station, or ordered in advance by mail. There is no online reservation system for permits.
  • Permits are required year-round for day and overnight use by large groups (8+) or organizational groups such as scouts, churches, schools and hiking clubs. Group size is limited to 12 people or people+stock combined.
  • Campfires are prohibited east of the Continental Divide in the Indian Peaks Wilderness (including Diamond Lake), as well as Caribou Lake, Columbine Lake, Gourd Lake, Crater Lake and in the Cascade Creek drainage above Cascade Falls on the west side of the Divide.
  • Camping is permitted only at designated campsites in the Diamond, Jasper, Crater and Caribou Lakes Travel Zones.
  • Camping is prohibited in the 4 Lakes Travel Zone (Mitchell, Blue, Long, Isabelle) May 1 - Nov 30.
  • Camping is prohibited within 100' of lakes, streams and trails.
  • Pets must be on a handheld leash at all times.
  • Packstock is prohibited in the Four Lakes Backcountry Zone, in the Cascade Backcountry Zone above Cascade Falls and on the Diamond Lake Trail #975.

Fishing Information

  • Fishing is permitted in the Neva Lakes and North Fork Middle Boulder Creek with a valid Colorado fishing license.

Rules and Regulations

  • Dogs must be leashed at all times in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.

Directions to Trailhead

The Fourth of July Trailhead is located 8.8 miles from the Highway 72 - Eldora Turnoff in Nederland.

From downtown Nederland, go south on Highway 72 for .5 miles to County Road 130 and make a right toward Eldora Ski Resort. Continue on Highway 130 through the town of Eldora, just past which it becomes a dirt road (4 miles).

Continue on the dirt road (past the Hessie Trailhead) another 4.8 miles to the Buckingham Campground and trailhead. Parking is limited at the trailhead, but roadside parking is permitted in designated spaces. The area is patrolled and tickets will be issued to illegally parked cars.

The road between Hessie and Fourth of July Trailhead is rough. High clearance vehicles are advised.

Contact Information

Boulder Ranger District
2140 Yarmouth Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301

Trip Reports

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